Study Guide

Vanity Fair Chapter 41

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Chapter 41

In which Becky revisits the Halls of her Ancestors

  • Becky and Rawdon fall into nostalgic thoughts on their way back to Queen's Crawley. Becky thinks about how much younger she seemed to herself nine years ago when she came to Queen's Crawley to be a governess. Rawdon thinks about his own misspent youth.
  • OK, sentimental break over.
  • Young Sir Pitt welcomes Becky and Rawdon to the mansion, and Lady Jane is so nice to her that Becky actually...wait for it, it's crazy...cries real tears.
  • It makes us realize how rare it is for someone to be genuinely nice to her.
  • Sort of sad. Sort of.
  • Becky quickly starts her standard tactic of ingratiating herself with everyone.
  • She first asks to see Lady Jane's two kids and compliments them on how cute they are. This instantly endears her to Jane.
  • Then she launches into Lady Southdown, who is still pretty cold. Becky asks her for help with religious matters and then, as icing on the sucking-up cake, asks her for medical advice.
  • Lady Southdown takes her very seriously, and pompously helps her.
  • Becky works on her impression of Lady Southdown and later, when she gets back to London, uses it to entertain Lord Steyne.
  • But for now, Lady Southdown warms to her slightly.
  • Young Sir Pitt, meanwhile, is totally into his sister-in-law. All she does is compliment and praise him. It helps that he is really susceptible to praise. As the narrator points out, "Pitt himself, who, always inclined to respect his own talents, admired them the more when Rebecca pointed them out to him" (41.31).
  • While all this is happening, old, dead Sir Pitt is laid out in state. Young Sir Pitt hires the right number of mourners and orders black mourning clothes for everyone who lives and works on the estate. However, he and the other members of the family don't go near the coffin.
  • There is a proper and totally impersonal funeral service.
  • As soon as it's over, everyone forgets all about him. We guess that's fair – if you don't make any friends while you're alive, don't expect much sadness when you die.
  • Young Sir Pitt is totally psyched to be in control of his estate and decides to be a good, economical, practical, and fair steward of it.
  • Rawdon has now become very subservient to his brother.
  • He also gets frequent notes from Briggs about how Rawdon Jr. is doing in London. The boy sometimes even writes letters himself, which Rawdon shows to Lady Jane with a lot of pride. Young Sir Pitt promises to pay for the boy's education.
  • Deep into a slow and comfortable country existence, Becky has a thought that has now become a very famous quotation from the novel. She sees how nice and calm everyone and everything is, and decides that "I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year" (41.38). This line has since become a quick way of saying that morality is relative, and that it tends to depend on circumstances. Here, for instance, Becky blames her scheming and conniving ways on the fact that she is poor and has no other way to get ahead in life.
  • Soon it's time to leave Queen's Crawley. Becky is torn between how boring and how nice it was to be there. Either way, though, her life is in London.

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